A Decade of Working Daringly to Build the Field of Black Male Achievement

Shawn Dove, CEO

It is with deep gratitude and appreciation that we acknowledge the 10-year anniversary of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement this week.

I am grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to lead a national movement to improve the life outcomes of Black men and boys in America. Our movement would not be possible without thousands of leaders and partners like you joining CBMA to elevate opportunities and challenges facing Black men and boys so that they may realize their full potential as productive, contributing citizens in a nation that has historically, through racist policies and practices, squeezed them to the margins.

I am intentional in saying we are acknowledging our 10 years, as opposed to celebrating them. Originally launched as a three-year initiative of the Open Society Foundations on June 12, 2008, it took much building and battling to stretch CBMA’s three-year term limit into a decade of working daringly to accelerate investments in Black men and boys to unprecedented levels.

Yet, it is a challenge to embrace a celebratory mindset when I consider the paradox of promise and peril still facing America’s Black men and boys. Yes, we have come a long way, but what has gotten us here will not get us there. “There” being our ability to point to a country that lives up to its ideals and is able to declare that it is a Promise of Place where Black men and boys, and all communities of color, are not merely surviving but thriving.

Yes, we have come a long way, but what has gotten us here will not get us there.

Indeed, this persistent, divine discontent and collectively employing the power of the focus factor helped forge CBMA’s work at the outset by promoting an asset-based narrative about Black men and boys; cultivating strategic partnerships; investing in leaders and organizational capacity; measuring and promoting what works and having a “sustain the Campaign” ethos.

These guiding principles helped extend the philanthropic shelf-life of CBMA and ignite a growing field of Black male achievement that has connected and galvanized the nation. We played an instrumental role with helping former President Barack Obama launch My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative birthed in the aftermath of his speech responding to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin. At the time, we asked, “How should philanthropy respond to Obama's speech on Black men and boys?

CBMA spun off from OSF into an independent entity in 2015 and today our work resides at the intersection of movement and field-building, bolstered by a membership network of over 5,000 individual leaders and 3,000 organizational partners. We are currently implementing a High School Excellence framework in Detroit, MI, and spreading those best practices throughout our network.

We regularly bring leaders together so they learn from each other and scale their efforts. As of this writing, we have gathered 24 leaders from our Promise of Place cities in Greensboro, NC, to launch a year-long fellowship that meshes executive leadership coaching and social movement-building strategies. We are deepening and spreading our BMA Health and Healing Strategies work to ensure men and women at the forefront of creating change are also focused on their own health, healing and well-being. And there is our flagship intergenerational, cross-sector Rumble Young Man, Rumble national and regional gatherings that serve as a preeminent movement-building experience for BMA leaders.

As far as we have come, I am challenging and stretching outside of my comfort zone to think bolder and act even more daringly in our next decade. At the heart of the future I see, are some fruitful questions that keep me up at night: “How do we do a better job of infusing social enterprise and wealth-building strategies into the field?” I cringe when I consider the millions of dollars we’ve leveraged since 2008 and realizing those dollars have not better translated into increased equity in terms of ownership, entrepreneurship and social and economic mobility for Black men, their families and communities.

Our Quantifying Hope research, jointly with the Foundation Center, delivers this hard news: While we have seen sporadic upticks over the past decade in philanthropic giving to Black male achievement, the amount of funding resources are vastly insufficient.

I keep coming back to the original impetus of why we spun-off CBMA from Open Society Foundations: What this nation truly needs is not a “campaign” for Black male achievement, but a Corporation for Black Male Achievement – an endowed philanthropic social enterprise that will lean into this issue for the generation it will take to create lasting change. 

I invite you to join me in acknowledging CBMA’s 10-year anniversary by posting your experiences, insights and reflections using the hashtag #CBMATurns10 on your social media platforms. I also invite you to join me in sharing your perspectives, using the same hashtag, of what it will look like for CBMA to act even more daringly during our next decade.

There is so much more to be done before we can declare America as a true promise of place for Black men and boys. On behalf of our staff, board of directors and amazing network of leaders, thank you for joining us on this journey!